Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, currently president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, was an official of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State on Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell.

He shares his memories of that event.

ZENIT: Where were you and how did you receive the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Cardinal Tauran: That year I was under-secretary for Relations with States; I was in that role from 1988 to 1990, and secretary from 1990 to 2013. I was on vacation in my home in

ZENIT: Whoever authorized the attack on John Paul II perhaps wished to avoid the fall of the Soviet empire.

Cardinal Tauran: That’s not known, although the message was clear: he was a Pope who annoyed -- and the speed of the events.

I always say that it was prepared by three things together: the Helsinki process that created a new philosophy of relations, with the Final Act of 1975; and Gorbachev and John Paul II, two providential men. These are the three things together.

ZENIT: And the Vatican’s Ostpolitik?

Cardinal Tauran: It made its contribution in the measure that it enabled the silent Church to speak. Until the Pope of Krakow was elected, overcoming the silence …

ZENIT: How did John Paul II learn about it?

Cardinal Tauran: He learned about it through two means of communication; in addition, at the time there were itinerant bishops, such as Monsignor Luigi Poggi, especially in charge of relations with Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Bulgaria.

ZENIT: What did John Paul II do when he received the news?

Cardinal Tauran: He certainly prayed. I remember also that when Gorbachev’s visit to the Vatican was announced, John Paul II prepared for it a month before, reading every day in Russian a page of the Gospel. The meeting between them took place without translators because they understood one another, he speaking Polish and Gorbachev Russian.

ZENIT: What does the Iron Curtain teach us?

Cardinal Tauran: That peoples can never be separated, because we are made to live together, in respect of one another and of the culture of each one.

ZENIT: Did Communism represent for the Christian West a greater threat than that of Muslim radicals today?

Cardinal Tauran: Yes, but each crisis has its specific particularity. It is difficult to compare. In regard to Europe, all these countries of Eastern Europe have a common patrimony: Christianity. It is natural that one day or another they will take up their common origin.

ZENIT: John Paul II went to Poland a second time during marshal law. How did he influence all that?

Cardinal Tauran: I wasn’t on that trip, but in Eastern Germany everything began in the Orthodox Churches with candle lit processions in sign of freedom, to the Berlin Wall. Everything was so fast and without the shedding of blood; the system was emptied from within. And then again in 1987 or 1988, when I was in Vienna negotiating in a conference for cooperation, it was the month of May, a whole page interview came out of Patriarch Pimen with a photo in Pravda, on faith, the Christian roots of Russia, so something was moving …

ZENIT: What did the people of the East feel with a Polish Pope?

Cardinal Tauran: For them it was a security. They knew that he knew the Church from within; he was not a diplomat, he was a religious leader. They knew he spoke on behalf of all; the silent Church no longer existed.

ZENIT: What is the moral of this story?

Cardinal Tauran: In the end, truth always triumphs.

[Translation by ZENIT]